Time on Bernanke: The Peak of Central Banking?

By Justin Rohrlich  DEC 16, 2009 2:30 PM

Person of the Year choices often signal a top.


Today, Time magazine named Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke Person of the Year.

Why not Octomom? Or Jon Gosselin? Perhaps Michaele and Tariq Salahi, the infamous White House party crashers, weren’t available?

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman warned this morning of Time’s “cover curse”:

“The magazine cover curse is a well-known phenomenon: You should always short the stock of a company whose CEO is the subject of a glowing cover story in a major magazine.

“Plus there’s the specific Time effect. Let’s not forget the 1985 joint portrait of Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, which concluded that Ms. Lauper was the one who’d remain a star.”

As Minyanville Editor-in-Chief Kevin Depew wrote, “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA -- Time magazine names Ben Bernanke Man of the Year. No, seriously.”

Yes, seriously. This is a man currently savoring a proud 21% approval rating according to Rasmussen Reports.

"The story of the year was a weak economy that could have been much, much weaker," Time said. "Thank the man who runs the Federal Reserve, our mild-mannered economic overlord."

In Depew’s words, “This probably represents a peak in the importance of central banking. If you scan the list of Time magazine’s "Person of the Year" awards and pay attention to the timing, they almost universally represent a culminating event in the lives of the people or abstract ideas selected. This isn't because there is something flawed with Time's selection process; it's simply the case that by the time something is deemed universally important enough to be selected it has reached a natural point of exhaustion.”

Let’s take a look at some of the past honorees:

1928: Walter Chrysler

It may have taken a few years, but Chrysler managed to go broke and sell the remains of what once was to Fiat -- a company about as well-managed as most other Italian firms. Meaning, er, not at all.

1938: Adolf Hitler

How’d that award work out for ya, Adolf? Not so hot? Eh, you should’ve been a mensch and let Mengele get the glory.

1939: Josef Stalin

Only 700,000 killed between 1937 and 1938! For a statesman to show this kind of restraint and cap the mass exterminations at under a million sure is admirable.

1942: Josef Stalin, again

Why not? There weren’t any other worthy possibilities out there, like Mohandas Gandhi.

1957: Nikita Khrushchev

It’s not like the guy ever said, “Comrades, we must unmask and relentlessly destroy all enemies of the people,” or anything like that.

1979: Ayatollah Khomeini

Two words: great beard. (But nowhere near as well-groomed as Ben Bernanke’s).

1997: Andrew Grove

Time called Grove, Intel’s (INTC) founder, “a brilliant mind on the front line of a revolution” who had changed the face of the world. Earlier today, the Federal Trade Commission sued Intel, accusing the company of unfairly stifling competition for the past 10 years.

1999: Jeff Bezos

The man who birthed Amazon (AMZN) was a hero. However, 10 years after his star turn as Person of the Year, his company’s stock trades for roughly the same price.

2001: Ted Turner

2001 meant a nasty divorce from Jane Fonda for this Person of the Year.

2007: Vladimir Putin

It’s a new era in US-Russian relations! The Cold War is a distant memory! What could possibly go wrong from here on out? Nothing, unless you were one of the lucky businesspeople who had their companies seized by the State.

2008: Barack Obama

President Obama’s approval ratings have fallen farther faster than any of his predecessors. A Herculean task -- unless, apparently, you’ve been named Time magazine’s Person of the Year.

Apparently, the world thinks everything’s back to normal and we have Ben Bernanke to thank for it. When your beaming mug is on the cover of Time, who cares that the percentage of Americans on food stamps has gone from 6% during Greenspan’s tenure to more than 11% today, or that one in four US children now participate in some form of food assistance program?

Let’s just be thankful Helicopter Ben doesn’t play football in his spare time -- with our luck, he’d get picked to appear on the next EA Sports (ERTS) Madden NFL videogame cover and we’d then find ourselves living with the infamous jinx that follows those selected.

Care to guess whose face graced a recent one?

Oh, just a charming littler feller by the name of Michael Vick.
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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